How to Get Rid of Gophers From Your Yard

Gophers can be a nuisance in yards and gardens. Their tunneling and burrowing can damage plants and make a yard unsafe. Getting rid of gophers takes some persistence and continued effort, but there are several methods that can be effective.

Understanding Gopher Behavior

Before getting into specific control methods, it’s helpful to understand some gopher behaviors and tendencies:

  • Solitary creatures – Gophers are solitary creatures and each gopher will have its own tunnel system. Several gophers may occupy the same yard but each will have separate tunnels.
  • Tunnel experts – Gophers are excellent burrowers and can quickly create extensive tunnels. Their tunnels are generally 6-12 inches below the surface.
  • Forage above and below ground – Gophers forage both above and below ground. They will surface in lawns or gardens to feed on vegetation and quickly retreat to their tunnels.
  • Most active spring and fall – Gopher activity increases in spring and fall as they breed and prepare for winter. Their mounds and tunnels are most noticeable during these periods.
  • Don’t hibernate – Gophers do not hibernate in the winter but are less active. They rely on their food caches in their tunnels during cold or snowy weather.

Removing Gopher Food Sources

Eliminating food sources is the first line of defense against gophers:

  • Remove any grasses and weeds around gardens and buildings. These vacant areas provide ideal foraging sites.
  • Clear vegetation at least 12-18 inches away from planting beds. This makes gardens less enticing.
  • Remove piles of mulch, leaves, wood, or other debris that can harbor insect larvae and worms. This takes away an easy food source.
  • Cut back overgrown vegetation. Long grass and dense landscaping are attractive to gophers.
  • Plant gopher-resistant plants like aloe, lavender, geraniums, and lantana. Avoid succulent, tender plants.
  • Protect vegetable gardens with underground wire mesh fencing. Use 1/4-1/2 inch mesh and bury 12 inches deep.
  • Use elevated garden boxes with wire mesh bottoms to prevent gophers from burrowing up from below.

Deterring Gophers with Natural Repellents

Certain natural scents and products may deter gophers – they can be worth trying but typically provide only temporary relief:

  • Sprinkle predator urine granules from coyotes, foxes, etc around affected areas. The scent mimics predators which frightens gophers. Reapply after rain.
  • Place pouches of mothballs into gopher tunnels and mound holes. The strong odor repels them as they are highly sensitive to smell. Reapply frequently.
  • Use a castor oil spray and soak tunnels and mounds. Castor oil’s odor irritates gophers and can force them to avoid treated areas.
  • Plant gopher spurge, garlic, onion, or chives around gardens. These plants may repel gophers but effectiveness can vary.
  • Try natural repellent sprays made with garlic, capsaicin, cloves, etc. Spray on mounds, tunnels, and around gardens. Requires frequent reapplication.

These natural deterrents can provide temporary relief but typically need frequent reapplication. Combining these with exclusion and removal methods is most effective.

Excluding Gophers with Barriers

Installing underground barriers can block gophers from digging into gardens or yards:

  • Bury welded wire mesh fencing 6-12 inches deep around gardens, flower beds, or lawns. Use 1/4-1/2 inch mesh size.
  • For small areas, sink 18-inch tall sheet metal at least 12 inches deep. Create an L-shape for better protection.
  • Use perforated plastic tubes called gopher baskets around individual plants. Set them 12 inches deep.
  • Line vegetable garden rows with thick flexible plastic sheeting buried 8 inches deep.
  • Install wire mesh barriers vertically for raised garden boxes. Use 1/4 inch hardware cloth and bury 12 inches or more below soil level.

The key with barriers is properly installing them at adequate depths. They require some work but can provide very effective protection if done right.

Removing Gophers and Their Tunnels

Eliminating the gophers themselves is the most direct approach to resolve the problem. Try these removal tactics:


Trapping can be an economical and chemical-free option for removing gophers.

  • Locate the main underground runway by probing with a metal rod near fresh mounds. Runways are 6-12 inches below ground.
  • Use a gopher or mole trap like the Macabee, Cinch, or Black Hole traps. Set traps in main runways with tunnels blocked off on both sides.
  • Secure traps well by stapling them down. Check and reset traps daily. Wear gloves when handling traps.
  • Persistence is key – it may take a week or more to catch all gophers on a property.

Poison Baits

Poison grain baits are also effective at killing gophers:

  • Use grain-based baits made specifically for gophers like strychnine or zinc phosphide formulations. Follow all label directions carefully.
  • Place bait into the main runway using a long-handled spoon. Use 1-2 teaspoons per placement, about 15-20 feet apart.
  • Wear proper protective clothing, including gloves, when handling baits.
  • Check for dead gophers and re-apply bait until gopher problems stops. Remove and dispose of gopher carcasses properly.
  • Avoid using baits if pets or children may access them. Use with caution.


Burrow fumigants can asphyxiate gophers in their tunnels:

  • Use aluminum phosphide pellets made for gopher control. They release gas when exposed to moisture in tunnels.
  • Wear required protective gear when handling. Follow label instructions carefully to avoid toxicity hazards.
  • Place 2-4 pellets into tunnels and seal in with soil. The gas spreads through the tunnel system.
  • Check for dead gophers over the next few days. Reapply as needed until problem resolves.
  • Avoid using on damp soils and never use near buildings or underground utilities due to gas spread.

Fumigants can provide quick control but proper safety precautions are critical. Never use automobile exhaust or engine fumes to gas tunnels – these can be deadly to the applicator.

Removing Gopher Tunnels

Eliminating gopher tunnels removes their food caches and runway access:

  • Once gophers are controlled, flatten all mounds to allow tunnels to collapse.
  • Dig into tunnel systems and disrupt their integrity so they can’t be reused.
  • Use a shovel to pierce tunnels and create holes to allow oxygen inside – this will speed their deterioration.
  • Fill in any holes, trenches, or depressed rows from collapsed tunnels with dirt.
  • Check weekly for any new tunnels or mounds and stomp them down. Persist until gopher problems cease.

Destroying gopher tunnels forces them to expend energy re-digging them, leaving them more vulnerable to baits and traps.

Preventing Gopher Reinfestation

Completely removing gophers takes diligence. Follow these tips to help prevent their return:

  • Inspect weekly for new gopher mounds or tunnels. Act immediately if activity resumes.
  • Maintain exclusion barriers and promptly fix any breaches. Check buried fencing for corroded mesh.
  • Allow natural predator scent packets to decompose before reapplying – don’t oversaturate an area.
  • Rotate repellents used – gophers can adapt to constant smells. Change tactics every 2-4 weeks.
  • Keep up removal of food sources and vegetation management. Keep areas near structures clean.
  • Monitor adjoining properties for gopher spread. Ask neighbors to control populations on their land.
  • Use multiple control methods together – exclusion, removal, repellents, habitat modification.

With persistence in applying varied control measures, gophers can be successfully and humanely evicted from your yard for the long term.

Frequently Asked Questions About Controlling Gophers

What are signs of gophers in my yard?

Look for dirt mounds with plugged holes, raised ridges across lawns, dying vegetation, and holes surrounded by loose dirt. Tunnels under patios or walkways can create sagging.

How do I find where gophers are tunneling?

Use a metal rod to probe gently around fresh mounds and mark where the rod penetrates into a tunnel. Gopher runways are usually 6-10 inches below ground. Their deepest tunnels are 12-18 inches down.

What traps work best for catching gophers?

Specialized scissor-jaw gopher traps like the Macabee are very effective, as are choker-loop style traps such as the Black Hole trap. Victor and other brands also make gopher traps.

Is it safe to use gopher poison bait?

Poison grain baits containing strychnine or zinc phosphide can be used safely by closely following label directions and precautions. Avoid skin contact and never use them loosely above ground. Exercise extreme caution if pets or children may access the baits.

How long does it take for gopher fumigants to work?

Fumigant gases spread through gopher tunnels fairly quickly but it takes 12-24 hours for them to be lethal. Check tunnels in 2-3 days and re-treat if needed until gopher activity ceases.

What depth should gopher wire mesh barriers be buried?

For effective exclusion, gopher wire mesh or hardware cloth should be buried a minimum of 12 inches deep. Some sources recommend 18 inches. The deeper the wire mesh is buried, the better.

How can I stop gophers from neighboring yards?

Ask neighbors to control their gopher populations using traps, baits, or barriers. Having the area cleared up to 100 feet or more around your property provides a buffer zone. You can also install perimeter wire mesh fencing along shared property lines.

Why do gopher problems seem worse at certain times?

Gopher activity increases during spring and fall as they breed and prepare for winter. The mounds and tunnels created during this heightened activity are most noticeable to homeowners.

How soon do I need to treat new gopher tunnels or mounds?

Acting quickly is key – don’t allow gophers to get established or reproduce. Destroy mounds, stomp down ridges, and install traps or baits as soon as fresh gopher signs appear before population expands further.


Gophers can rapidly take over a yard but a variety of effective control options exist. The best approach is combining tactics like exclusion, removing food sources, traps, baits, and fumigants. Don’t allow gophers to get entrenched – take prompt action at the first signs of their presence. With diligent effort and multiple integrated methods, you can successfully evict gophers and reclaim your yard for yourself to enjoy.